Just Checking: Jonathan Speelman in "New in Chess"

by New In Chess
10/7/2016 – Thanks to his rise to the very top in the chess world French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave made it to the cover of the new issue of "New in Chess". But inside the current issue, in the regular "Just Checking" column is an interesting interview with Jonathan Speelman, grandmaster, mathematician, former World Championship candidate and popular ChessBase author.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


New in Chess 2016/6, The Club Players Magazine, € 11,99, 106 pages, English

Contents of the current issue

108 pages of the best in chess:

Madrid rivalries
Two chess players: Hou Yifan and Fernando Torres.

NIC's Café
World Championship match headaches, Vladimir Kramnik vs cellist Misha Maisky, Drink like a Grandmaster.

Your Move
Readers' letters from Portugal, Brazil, USA and Finland.

How many games should you play in the 6 months prior to playing a World Championship match?

Fair & Square
What Lewis Carrol, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, William Shakespeare, Bart Simpson and others said about chess.

A most wanted win
Alejandro Ramirez reports on the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, one of the finest chess events in the world. Winner Wesley So also claimed the first prize in the Grand Chess Tour. With exclusive game annotations by Wesley So and Anish Giri.

Nigel Short
Caspian Capers: his recent adventures in Iran.

and much more...

Just Checking

On page 106 of the current Jonathan Speelman answers questions by the New in Chess team. New in Chess was so kind to allow ChessBase to republish this interview.

Just checking: Jonathan Speelman


DATE OF BIRTH: October 2, 1956


PlACE OF residence: London, UK

What is your favourite colour?


What kind of food makes you happy?

Good veggie food – Veggie Moussaka say – or dips, especially houmous.

And what drink?

Beer or red wine.

Who is your favourite author?

At the moment Ben Aaronovich as in the Rivers of London series.

What was the best book you ever read?

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

What is your all-time favourite movie?

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

What is your favourite TV series?

Almost any decent detective series and Hyperdrive (it helps to be British to appreciate this old series – the HMS Camden Lock attempts to sell British goods to aliens).

Do you have a favourite actor?

Alan Rickman.

And a favourite actress?

Juliet Stevenson.

What music do you like to listen to?

Rock music from the 60’s and 70’s.

Do you have a favourite painter?

Pablo Picasso.

What is your best result ever?

Getting through the Candidates the first time round as far as the semis in 1988 – my first match with Nigel Short.

What was your best game?

Lots of nice ones but sadly mostly ‘unsound’. Kortchnoi-JS, Brussels 1988,  was fun – shame about 16.♕c4!.


My best ever move was also unsound – ♘a2?!!? against Psakhis.


Who is your favourite chess player?

Misha Tal, because not only was he a genius but he also adored chess.

Mihail Tal

Is there a chess book that had a profound influence on you?

As a kid Peter Clarke’s book on Tal and Larsen’s Selected Games were two of my favourites.

What are chess players particularly good at (except for chess)?

Lots of excellent linguists. And pattern recognition in a variety of contexts.

Do chess players have typical shortcomings?

Chess fosters extreme self-reliance, which is a wonderful thing in some ways but can be tiresome too.

Do you have any superstitions concerning chess?

Used to have a battle pen but not now – often tie shoelaces before a game.

Who or what would you like to be if you weren’t yourself?

I’m happy in my skin but if I weren’t a chess player I’d have liked to be a decent mathematician.

Which three people would you like to invite for dinner?

Einstein, Picasso, Marilyn Monroe (not I hope unkind to outnumber such a feisty and clever woman).

Marilyn Monroe (Photo: Wikipedia)

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Re chess to be self-reliant – also applies to life generally though harder to implement.

Is there something you’d love to learn?

I wish I were a better linguist.

What is your greatest fear?

The usual things. Dementia must be almost the worst thing that can happen to a person but happily it seems to be exceedingly rare among chess players.

How do you relax?

Crosswords, number puzzles including killer sudokus (the ones where you have to do arithmetic rather than just playing with symbols), computer strategy games (various iterations of Civilization and now Galactic Civilization), reading, flobbering in front of the television and socialising generally.

What is the stupidest rule in chess?

Zero tolerance by a country mile.

Is a knowledge of chess useful in everyday life?

The ability to become good at anything can be translated into different spheres. Chess as such isn’t useful in itself though among other things you have to learn to calculate the consequences of actions, which is a skill which, for example, is sadly missing in many of our glorious politicians.

What is the best thing that was ever said about chess?

Nothing immediately came to mind so I googled. Tartakower’s ‘Chess is a fairy tale of 1001 blunders’ is especially nice.

Published with kind permission from New in Chess (pictures and games added by ChessBase)

New In Chess (NIC) was founded in 1984 and appears eight times a year. It is read by club players in 116 countries. A yearly subscription for eight issues costs €79.99.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register